It wasn’t until the first grade when the little boy I had a crush on returned the school picture we exchanged telling me his parents said he couldn’t date black girls did I realize how different I was from the white people in my family and in my community. You see, growing up biracial, with an all white family my mom’s side that raised me, loved me and cared for me can make racial identity quite tricky to navigate.
I am not blind to the racial injustice of this country and this world. I spend most of my time immersed in a less than diverse environment, both going to school in New Hampshire and being a member of Greek Life. However, this lack of diversity is what I’ve always known because of where I’ve grown up. I’ve always had white friends, not by conscious choice, but because of the environment that I’ve lived in. For most of my life I’ve brushed off microagressions and comments about my curly weird hair, if I’m adopted, or questions asking me if I celebrate Kwanza among other things. I’ve tried my best to blend into the community that I’m a part of and not embracing the fact that I am a person of color, so I can fit into what I know society accepts and loves.
Urbana 15 was an interesting experience for me, for the first time it became clear that I am a part of a community that is being oppressed and hurt by systematic racism. I am biracial and that is something to celebrate and be proud of. My ethnic identity was something I could no longer ignore so that I could try to fit in. I was in near tears as Michelle Higgins, one of the speakers and an activist for Black Lives Matter, explained the hurt that black people in our country face on a daily basis. I felt and understood what she was saying. Whether it’s being followed around in a store because of the color of your skin or being afraid for you life and police brutality because of your ethnicity. It opened up my eyes to see that I am a part of a culture and history that is strong and beautiful, but has seen so much pain. I am a part of people who have been silenced for far too long.
After the night of talking about the black lives matter movement, I got to spend time talking with my sorority sisters about why this movement is so important. It’s important because I am their sister, I go to meetings with them, wear the same clothes as them, attend the same school and many of the same classes but I am still thought of as less and I can be in danger of my life because of my skin color. It matters because one day I may have a son, and I don’t want to be afraid for his life if he goes outside in a hooded sweatshirt. This movement matters because God sees us all as equal children but society does not always see it that way. We talk about Greek IV being a movement of world changers, and I believe in that mission, but I also think it's important that both Greek life and Christians communities start acknowleding their place in the racial hurt of this world. I think that if we have equality advocates in the Greek system, we can truly change the world and bring Christ's full message of healing and Good News to all corners. Innocent people have died because of their skin color. This is an issue that needs to be addressed because of the history of this country. Sure things have gotten better since the days of slavery and segregation, but we as America has had a brutal past with those who are not white. This is an issue that needs time, activism and most of all God.
Ms. Higgins put it well when she said, that “One old woman ago we put 100,000 Japanese people in camps. If you don’t know the story we’ll end up repeating it.”
We must be honest with ourselves and how our brothers and sisters in Christ are being treated. I know that it took me a long time to accept the realities of my life and what is happening in our country, but now that my eyes are open and I can confidently stand up to unjust systems, I feel closer to God and closer to who I am. As believers of Christ, God calls us to love those around us and Jesus calls us to love those on the margins. Our country is hurting, and the call of Urbana was to start engaging in conversations as loving Christians, that’s how we start to heal our broken world. I am thankful to Urbana for opening up a conversation for an issue that needs God just as much as any mission field does.